Winter months usually bring cold weather, snow, and make the environment a harsh place to live. For chickens, through thousands of years of evolution, they are able to live and survive throughout the colder season. Sometimes, the weather gets too extreme, even for chickens.
So can chickens freeze to death? Yes, during the winter months, chickens can freeze to death. Even though they can live in very cold temperatures, but prolonged exposure to the cold can cause them to die. Also, chickens that are not in good health and coops that are not prepared for the winter can also be a contributing factor during the cold weather.
What Temperature is Too Cold For Chickens?
To keep them from getting too cold, chickens actually have two layers of feathers to keep them warm. The outer layer is visible and shiny. This layer is shiny and semi-waterproof. It help keeps moisture and cold air from penetrating the body.
The inner layer is the fluffy layer which is also called down feathers. This layer of the feathers is soft and compact. Its main purpose is to keep the warmth from the body in and the cold temperature from penetrating it.
Can Chickens Stay Outside in the Winter?
Chickens are an incredible creature that has the ability to withstand the cold temperature. Therefore, yes chickens can stay outside in the winter.
However, it depends on the breeds of the chickens as well. Some breed can’t stand the cold temperature, while others will simply run through the snow like it’s nothing.
The best way is to open the coop and let them go outside on their own. If the cold weather doesn’t bother them, they will forage for food outside. If it’s too cold, they will stay in the coop where it’s warm.
Can Chickens Sleep Outside in the Cold?
When it comes to sleeping outside during the cold weather, some chicken actually enjoys sleeping outside when it’s cold. Each chicken is different and has their own preferences.
If the temperature isn’t too cold, they will be able to withstand it and won’t bother them a bit.
Therefore, it’s best to let the chickens decide on their own. Leave the coop open and if it isn’t too cold, they will go outside on their own and sleep there. If it gets too cold, they will come back into the coop.
Signs Your Chickens Are Too Cold
When chickens start to get cold, they will start showing signs. Knowing the signs could mean life and death for them.
Below are some of the ways you can tell the chickens is suffering from an extreme cold:
Excessive huddling – Chickens are usually out and about foraging for foods or in their nest box by themselves. When they start to huddle together in groups, whether it’s small or large, it means they are getting too cold.
Huddling together is a way to keep warm by sharing body warmth. When you see this, make sure to insulate their coop so the temperature will rise.
Standing on one leg – Chickens are not known to stand on one leg unless there is a problem.
During the winter, when they stand on one leg, they do this so they can tuck the other leg in to keep it warm. They will keep rotating the legs so each can get warm.
Lack of movement – Chickens that are suffering from the cold will not be active. They may stay in one place, whether it’s outside or in their coop. This is a way to preserve energy and keep warm.
Excessively fluffed feathers – Like ducks, geese, and many other animals with feathers, they will puff themselves out to keep warm.
Some chickens will puff themselves out on occasion. However, if it’s the winter and it’s extremely cold, the chickens are walking around or standing still puffed up all the time, it means they are cold and need assistance.
Comb changing color – The color of their comb is a good indicator of how healthy they are. A pale comb will be a sign that they are sick. Black and white bits on the tips are a sign of frostbite.
How To Keep Chickens Warm During The Winter
Preparing the Chicken Coop For Winter
In the winter, the coop is will need to be prepared to withstand the cold temperature and keep the chickens safe and warm.
While chickens are able to tolerate extreme temperatures, sometimes, it can be too cold that they will need help.
When it comes to the chicken coop, make sure there are no cracks or gaps in the walls. If there are, cold air will be able to enter that will affect the heat retention in the coop.
Also, instead of warm air staying in the coop to keep the chickens warm, it will escape from the coop.
Therefore, make sure to check the entire coop from top to bottom for any leaks and cracks.
Eglu coop is the perfect chicken coop by offering twin-wall insulation to keep chickens warm in winter – Check the latest price here
Provide Heating For Chickens
Most likely, backyard chickens won’t need a heat lamp to keep them warm during the winter. They can naturally increase their body temperature with their plumage and by huddling together. Also, a good quality coop should be able to keep some of the heat in there.
However, there are times during the winter when it’s extremely cold. It may get too cold that the chickens are unable to deal with it. When this happens, the use of a heat lamp will useful.
Before using the heap lamp, make sure that the flocks really needs the extra heat. Just simply placing the heat lamp in their coop will just waste electricity.
To see if the chickens need a heat lamp or not, check to see if the cold weather is stressing them out. Some of the signs to look for are:
- Huddling together
- Puffing up their feathers often
- Standing on one leg at a time
- Making excess noise
Besides the signs of stress, check the temperature of the coop as well. While chickens can survive in temperature as low as -20° F, it’s not recommended that they be exposed to it for a prolonged time. Eventually, their body will start to breakdown and cause them to freeze to death.
Using a thermometer, take a reading of the ambient temperature in the coop. The optimal temperature should be 65° – 75° F. If it’s lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, you should consider adding a heat lamp to their coop.
Let Chickens Wear A Coat
Sometimes, chickens just love being outside their coop, even if it’s freezing temperature. If you have one or a couple of these chickens in your flocks, you should consider getting them a jacket.
The Hi-Viz chicken jacket is what we recommend for the winter. It’s made to protect the chickens from cold weather and comfortable for them to wear.
As you can see from the article, chickens are hardy creatures that can withstand the cold temperatures. The cold isn’t the problem, but the prolonged exposure to it which could be a problem for them. Chickens that are exposed to the extreme cold for too long can freeze to death. Therefore, when the chickens start showing signs of stress due to the cold, you need to intervene or they’ll die from it.